The Fife Arms: A Fresh Take on a Scottish Classic
September 6, 2019 by Allison Reiber DiLiegro
The Fife Arms is the buzziest hotel opening in the Scottish Highlands, garnering glossy magazine spreads and well-liked Instagram posts. There’s good reason the world has taken notice. The property was purchased in 2016 by art dealers and collectors Iwan and Manuela Wirth and redecorated in singular style by English designer Russell Sage with custom tartan designed by Araminta Campbell. But the Fife Arms isn’t all new – the hotel has a history the owners don’t want forgotten.
The Fife Arms was built in the 19th century and looks the part, with its multi-gabled roof and charming chimney stacks. Just nine miles away is Balmoral, the estate that was purchased by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria in 1852. Not by coincidence, this is also the time that tourism boomed in Braemar.
Even before the Queen’s arrival, Braemar was the site of the Braemar Gathering, the most famous of the Highland Games. Taking place annually on the first Saturday of September (on September 7th this year), the Braemar Gathering features hill races, tug-of-war and performances by pipe bands. The Queen attends each year between 3:00pm and 4:00pm. Balmoral is still considered the Scottish home to the Royal Family.
Iwan and Manuela Wirth are dedicated to maintaining a deep connection to the local culture. As such, the Fife Arms showcases Scottish craftsmanship with local curios, antiques and art. Highlights include a three-meter-high chimneypiece from the 19th century, works by Archibald Thornburn and a 1991 lithograph of Balmoral by HRH The Prince of Wales. The international collection features works by Zhang Enli, Subodh Gupta and Pablo Picasso.
The hotel has 46 bedrooms, each designed with a local theme, character or story in mind. Inspirations include Robert Louis Stevenson, who began writing Treasure Island while on holiday in Braemar, Lord Byron, who stayed in Braemar in 1796 while recovering from scarlet fever, and characters from local lore like The Highlander, The Crofter, The Stalker and The Mountaineer.
The Flying Stag pub, long-beloved by the locals, has been thoughtfully restored with the Braemar community in mind. Designed to be a meeting place between locals and visitors, there’s an extensive calendar of cultural events and a menu that features classic Scottish dishes, ales and whiskies at reasonable prices.
For a more elevated dining experience there’s the Clunie Dining Room, helmed by Executive Chef Tim Kensett. The menu, which showcases the art of wood fire cooking, features local game and produce alongside fish from the Clunie River. The walls are colored by an immersive mural by Argentinian artist Guillermo Kuitca, also inspired by the river.
The Fife Arms is surrounded by the Grampian Mountains, ancient woodlands and lush grounds of Cairngorms National Park. Outdoor enthusiasts can get out into nature, hike trails or go horseback riding at a nearby estate. Guests are welcome to join the hotel’s in-house forager on a hunt for wild ingredients like elderflower, wild garlic and mushrooms.
While the surrounding nature draws you outdoors, the warm bedrooms and promise of a pint in the pub invite you back in. In that way, Highland life goes on at the Fife Arms as it always has.
The Fife Arms
Mar Rd, Braemar
Aberdeenshire, AB35 5YN
Telephone: +44(0)7876 327603